Greater Palm Springs Pride
The fest with the best that’s later/cooler than the rest
By Kevin Perry
Autumn is the embodiment of Greater Palm Springs Pride. The crispness in the air denotes how cool our event is; the changing of the seasons represents the evolution of self, from denial to acceptance to celebratory wonder; and harvest time symbolizes how we as a community have lovingly gathered our friends and arranged them into a second family.
While other Pride festivals crowd the summer months, our hometown takes its time and savors the first weekend of November, welcoming tourists and thrilling locals until we all weave a rainbow flag of inclusion, one stitch at a time.
So what makes our Pride the best of the fests? Let’s sashay down memory lane to see how we got here… and where we’re marching next.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF EMPOWERMENT
The LGBTQ universe rippled when those infamous bricks were thrown at the Stonewall riots of late June 1969. Queer New Yorkers demanded equality, but justice requires diligence, so one riot wouldn’t be enough. The following year, the women of Lavender Menace and the men of the Homophile Youth Movement staged the Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28th, 1970. This would come to be known as the first Gay Pride parade, and it fanned the flames of fury into a flourish of fabulosity.
The crowd grew from hundreds to thousands as they descended on Central Park to publicly display their affection and affiliation. Those rebellious kisses reverberated around the globe and across the country, spawning a “Christopher Street West” march on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles that very same day. History had been made, and it was about to “Sizzle” its way to Palm Springs.
In fact, “Sizzle” was the title of our inaugural Pride festival: a variety show and dinner hosted by the Riviera. It was an appropriately intimate affair, since the crowds were escaping the desert heat by clamoring into the Riviera’s ballroom in the sweltering summer of 1986.
“Sizzle” had truly lived up to its name.
Over the ensuing years, organizers did their best to plan around the blazing Palm Springs temperatures. In 1989, for example, the Radisson (now the Renaissance) welcomed fans to a purrrfect purrrformance by Catwoman herself, Eartha Kitt.
But this kitten had claws; the summer weather was just too much for a successful Palm Springs Pride. Finally, the festival was moved to November starting in 1995, and Michael Feinstein marshaled the newly chill proceedings down Palm Canyon and into legend…
Since 1995, Palm Springs Pride has blossomed exponentially. The crowds have multiplied to over 125,000 party people, which is enormous considering our hometown boasts an everyday population of just over 48,000. In addition to attracting hordes of handsome faces, Pride also summons a handsome sum of money each year. Estimates put that figure at around $22 million annually, a hefty boon to local resorts, bars, and event organizers.
But fear not; these are gays who give back. The Pride Fund supports area schools, promotes various anti-bullying initiatives, and creates scholarships and a wealth of other opportunities at the annual Rainbow Summit every March. Through their vibrant partnership with the Safe Schools Desert Cities organization, the Pride committee is embracing a better tomorrow.
THE LOWDOWN ON THE HIGHLIGHTS
So, what does that tomorrow entail? We’re about to spill the tea, so get your saucer ready!
Over a month before the actual festivities, we honor the brightest lights in our star-studded gay sky at the Pride Honor Awards. Philanthropy is phabulous, so raise a glass to these pillars of the LGBTQ’mmunity!
Fast forward to Homoween (October 31st) when Grammy winner Evelyn “Champagne” King pops off on Arenas for a Palm Springs Halloween that scares off the competition.
Throughout Pride weekend, visitors to our spectacular city can see what we’re really made of: namely world-class architecture that evokes midcentury grandeur while summoning an even more innovative future. Double-decker bus tours are circling the splendor daily, so hop aboard!
Strap on your stilettos for the official kickoff party at Trina Turk on Friday, November 1st @ 5pm.
Take a breather from the breathless festival pace with a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum. Reflect on themes of harmony, humanity, and healing with their groundbreaking exhibit, The Art of Pride.
With inspiration at your back, race out to the Pride Run & Walk event on Saturday morning. Proceeds benefit the LGBT Community Center, and YOU’LL benefit from a stroll (or sprint) through our beautiful Las Palmas neighborhood.
Cool down at the Toucans Pride in the Parking Lot soiree, then heat back up with a Saturday night block party on Arenas Road. This crazy train culminates with the all-female tribute band Black Sabbitch, which perfectly heralds the following day’s activities…
Sunday is the main event, starting with a VIP pre-parade breakfast, and for good measure, an additional champagne brunch at Eight4Nine.
The Parade snakes itself around our uptown and downtown districts like a seductive boa on Sunday morning, and if you’re searching for the ideal viewing vantage, look no further than Trio, where Palm Springs eats, parties, and Prides itself on a great time. Their Sunday shenanigans will be hosted by Michael Walters, conjuring the incorrigible spirit of Brit-wit Dame Edna. You’ll never want to Brexit!
Our Pride Festival dominates downtown for two days, sprawling across several stages and asking only for donations in exchange for a lollapalooza of love. If you haven’t experienced Palm Springs Pride before, then you’re in for a cool surprise in a hotbed of gay life. And if you’re a return visitor, then welcome back!
For more details, rock onto www.PSPride.org